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Opening This Week: Brit horror, high school horror and Kevin Smith

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10272008_dearzachary.jpgBy Neil Pedley

Halloween week offsets some of the recent nice with a little bit of nasty that duly chucks the blood around. Kevin Smith’s also back, along with a culture clash rom-com and an eclectic mix of docs.

“Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father”
As anyone who’s seen this documentary as it’s collected audience awards on the festival circuit can attest, the less one knows, the better — but if we must, composer and filmmaker Kurt Kuenne channels his grief over the murder of his best friend Andrew Bagby into a cinematic celebration of Bagby’s life so that his son might have something of the father he will never know. Inviting loved ones to share memories and experiences, Kuenne assembles this memorial to his friend’s memory while Andrew’s parents enter into a bitter custody dispute with their son’s murderer, who’s out on bail in Canada awaiting extradition to the U.S.
Opens in New York; opens in Los Angeles on November 7th.

“Eden Lake”
Inspired by any one of a hundred nauseating Daily Mail headlines that have recently shaken Britain’s stuffy image to its very foundations, writer/director James Watkins trades in the traditionally American terror of backwoods-dwelling hillbillies for the more prevalent English menace of teenage tearaways. Michael Fassbender and Kelly Reilly star as a suburban couple on an idyllic weekend getaway where they are inexplicably tormented by a vicious gang of malevolent minors (including Shane Meadows’s regular Thomas Turgoose) in a savage game of cat and mouse.
Opens in limited release.

“The First Basket”
Although nearly a decade has passed since a Jewish basketball player last competed in the NBA, debut filmmaker David Vyorst’s comprehensive documentary details the pivotal role Jewish immigrants played in the early years of professional basketball. Blending archival footage with insider anecdotes from surviving former all-stars, Vyorst charts the impact Jewish players had on the league that would eventually become the NBA and how much the game affected the lives of second-generation immigrants from Eastern Europe who viewed it as a cornerstone of their identities as Americans.
Opens in New York; opens in Los Angeles on November 14th.

“The Haunting of Molly Hartley”
Cinema has a proud tradition of reflecting the myriad of hallway horrors contained within the seventh level of Hell that is high school — the awkwardness of puberty, the awakening of sexuality, the cruelty of parents and peers — though you’re unlikely to find a more quite outrageous metaphor for teen angst than the one purported by this debut from TV producer-turned-director Mickey Liddell. “The Riches”‘s Shannon Marie Woodward makes her big screen debut as the new girl on campus fleeing a satanic cult determined to celebrate her upcoming 18th birthday in style by offering up her soul as sacrifice to the Dark Lord. It’s expected that co-star Chace Crawford (“Gossip Girl”) will help her, having picked up a thing or two from starring in “The Covenant.”
Opens wide.

“The Matador”
As the centerpiece in a ritual dating back thousands of years, the torero, or the bullfighter, is an iconic figure in Spanish society, celebrated as both an exceptional athlete and an accomplished performer. Though times have changed, as this documentary from Stephen Higgins and Nina Gilden Seavey duly notes, there still are those who pursue perfection in the sport, including David Fandila, a matador nicknamed “El Fandi,” who steps up his bid to secure the top spot in the world rankings at a time when more and more Spaniards view the sport as an exercise in cruelty and question its role in modern Spanish society.
Opens in New York.

“The Other End of the Line”
Produced by one of the American film industry’s most prominent Indians (Ashok Amritraj) and penned by Tracey Jackson, whose last film was the similarly cross-cultural satire “The Guru,” this intercontinental romantic comedy continues Bollywood’s inroads into Hollywood. Shriya Saran stars as Priya, a lonely credit card call center worker in Bangalore who travels to San Francisco to hook up with a stranger (Jesse Metcalfe) whose complaints about fraudulent charges blossoms into a more amorous connection. The Internet age might make the idea of a telephone romance seem positively quaint, but DTV director James Dodson is hoping this culture clash will be his ticket to the party.
Opens in limited release.

British visual effects artist Toby Wilkins makes the jump to director with this minimalist, single location shocker that cleaned up recently at this year’s L.A. Screamfest, spiking no less than six awards including best picture. Paulo Costanzo and Jill Wagner star as Seth and Poppy, a young couple carjacked by an ex-con and his junkie girlfriend (Shea Whigham and Rachel Kerbs, respectively). Fleeing along a deserted highway, the unfortunate foursome find themselves marooned inside a remote gas station and must work together to survive as a bloodthirsty parasitic creature lurks in the shadows and lays siege to the building. Hard to believe there was once a time when being carjacked at gunpoint would have been more than enough.
Opens in limited release.

“Zack and Miri Make a Porno”
The last time Kevin Smith tried anything beyond recycling the same old shtick with “Jersey Girl,” the now-defunct Bennifer factor sank the film like an anchor chained to a rubber duck. Out of New Jersey (and his comfort zone) and into Pittsburgh, Smith drafts the quite busy Elizabeth Banks and comedy’s man of the hour Seth Rogen to play the titular lifelong best friends on the verge of bankruptcy who slowly fall for one another while trying to figure the best way to bump uglies for practical, financial considerations, without falling for one another. The film’s eclectic supporting cast has Smith regulars Jason Mewes and Jeff Anderson mingling with real porn stars, past and present, Traci Lords and Katie Morgan, in a film that played like gangbusters at last month’s Fantastic Fest in Austin.
Opens wide.

[Photo: “Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father,” Oscilloscope Pictures, 2008]

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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